When someone is killed in an accident, the law allows their family or estate to file a Washington, D.C. wrongful death lawsuit against the individual who caused their death—such as a negligent driver in a car crash. If successful, these lawsuits can result in damages to cover medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and, importantly, pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their death. Sometimes, there are questions about what evidence can be introduced to prove pain and suffering in this case.
For example, take a recent state appellate case. The facts of the case are undeniably tragic: a couple was driving along the highway when the defendant, in a pickup truck, crossed the median and hit them. The couple, husband and wife, both died as a result of the collision. Their three-year-old daughter, who was also in the vehicle, survived.
The deceased wife’s mother filed suit against the defendant. At trial, the jury awarded her $3 million. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting irrelevant evidence at trial. At trial, the issue to be decided was the deceased wife’s conscious pain and suffering. The plaintiffs presented evidence that she was pregnant at the time of the collision. When the collision happened, she was on the telephone with her mother, telling her about the appointment confirming her pregnancy. The mother, the plaintiff in this case, then heard her daughter scream, “oh my god, look at that,” and then heard her scream her husband’s name, followed by the crash itself. The court held that evidence regarding her state of mind—including the fact that she was pregnant—had relevance to her fright, shock, and mental suffering before the collision.
Relevant evidence can be admitted, so long as it’s prejudicial effect does not outweigh its substantive value. Because the substantive value is high in this case, the trial court had the discretion to choose to allow the evidence in. Thus, the appellate court held that it was not an error letting the evidence in, and affirmed the decision.
This case is just one example of the importance of evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the rules regarding what evidence can come in and for what purpose are very confusing. That is one reason that many Washington, D.C. plaintiffs choose to work with a personal injury attorney when they file a wrongful death suit, so they have someone to help them with the difficult specifics and can focus instead on grieving and recovering.
Call a Washington, D.C. Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you’re thinking about filing a Washington, D.C. wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit, you may be overwhelmed about how complicated it seems. The law regarding proving negligence in Washington, D.C. can be confusing to many people, and the rules of evidence may be even harder. That’s where the personal injury attorneys from Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, can come in. Our attorneys are deeply familiar with all these legal doctrines and more, and we have years of experience putting them into practice to recover for Washington, D.C. clients. Call us today to talk to one of our dedicated wrongful death lawyers risk-free at 800-654-1949.